Without question I have a few themes weaved into to my soul that I think are a part of me from the beginning of time : Women and textiles. Sounds strange, but I love them both and somehow they come together at so many crossroads, many out of complete necessity and need and the other for beauty. I was directed to this story from Janet Gleave, my dear friend. I'm so grateful she thought I would be interested.
In 1741 Thomas Coram a philanthropic childless sea captain opened a “Foundling Hospital” in London for babies up to one year old. The requirement for entrance was simple, that the mother was single and unable to take care of the child. The mother’s hope was that she would come back for the child when her circumstances improved, something that rarely happened.
What does this have to do with fabric? When the mother left their wee one at the hospital in order to identify their child on their return they would leave a swatch of fabric that they would match up later (most could not write, but fabric was something everyone had access to). This collection of swatches has become the largest textile collection the world has to offer. The Foundling Hospital was open for 213 years.
You can view a few of these precious pieces by going to the online exhibit called Threads of Feeling. Look to see that each piece of cloth are all different depending on the station in life where the mother came from- rough, thick cloth to delicate embrodiary. Notice the music in the background, it wasn’t lost on me- it is a song that was sung in the 1780’s. I needed a tissue . . .